What is a Bystander?

Updated 2/1/2016

A bystander, or witness, is anyone who sees a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation. Bystanders may or may not know what to do, or may expect someone else to do something to help. Research shows that educating and engaging bystanders is a promising way to help prevent the widespread problem of sexual violence within communities.

Checklist for Bystander Action:

Questions to ask BEFORE I take action:

  1. Am I aware there is a problem or risky situation?
  2. Do I recognize that someone needs help?
  3. Do I see myself as part of the solution?
  4. Will my safety be jeopardized by intervening?
  5. What are the benefits/costs of taking action?

Questions to ask DURING the situation:

  1. Is my chosen method of intervention working?
  2. Are there others I may call for help?
  3. Do I feel safe or do I need to re-evaluate the situation?

How to Intervene:

See violence for what it is.

A lot of times, we don't want to admit that violence is happening. We often choose to ignore the situation, look away, or call it something else. It is important to remember that no one has the right to be violent, even if two people are dating. Examples of violence include: grabbing someone, hitting, pushing, yelling, or name calling.

Violence doesn't stop violence - if you cannot intervene safely, contact law enforcement!

If someone is being abusive, threatening or trying to fight the abusive person is only going to make the situation worse. Instead, ask questions like "Is everything okay?" while looking at both people. It's a way to interrupt the situation without making it worse.

Don't silence or ignore the victim.

Be sure that you don't put all the focus on the abuser. The victim's voice should be heard and respected. Ignoring victims makes it seem like what they're feeling doesn't matter. 

Learn from the situation.

What could have been different? Did you respect the victim's rights? Did you avoid violence? Talk to your peers and get their perspective on the situation.

Remember, in the case of domestic violence, the abuse doesn't usually end after one intervention.

Sometimes the violence continues and the people stay together. This can be frustrating, but it's important to remember that while you can't control what another person is going to do, you can take a stand against violence.


CSU, Chico

CSU, Chico Police Department
(530) 898-5555

Counseling and Wellness Center
(530) 898-6345

Student Judicial Affairs
(530) 898-6897

Community Resources:

Catalyst Domestic Violence Services
(800) 895-8476

Rape Crisis Intervention
(530) 342-7273

Chico Police Department
(530) 897-4900